The spice lady
I've been buying herbs and spices from Martine Machuron – the 'spice lady' – for 7 years. Before I moved to France I used to go to the Lezignan market to buy the best herbs de province from her. It didn't occur to me that she would be at other markets as well so I was thrilled to see her at the Saturday market in Carcassonne.
It's a joy to shop at her booth. Her display is beautiful. She's charming. 7 years ago she spoke a few words of English and I spoke a few words of French. We managed. Now we more than manage having both improved our respective language skills.
It's not just that she has really fresh herbs and spices that make me keep going back. She makes her own interesting and delicious mixes and will suggest ways to use them. I use her massale mix as a rub on lamb before I roast it.
It's also the presentation. She weighs the spices on an old brass scale and she writes the name of the herb or spice on the brown paper bag.
Her handwriting is beautiful. I asked her if it was natural or if she had studied calligraphy. Natural. She said that she believes that it's the little touches that make life more pleasant. She's right. I always leave her booth feeling as if I have a little gift in my basket.
On Saturday she's in Carcassonne, on the square.